If you are here, chances are you’re as puzzled as I was when I first heard the term “content marketing.” I thought it sounded like a wishy-washy marketing fad, but as social technology (and my knowledge thereof) has developed, I now know that content marketing is an absolutely invaluable tool in any organisation’s online tool box.
So what exactly is it?
So what constitutes the “content” part of content marketing? Put simply, content is valuable media created with the intention to share it over social channels (which include but are not limited to social media, social bookmarking sites and sharing platforms such as Reddit or Slideshare).
As far as types of content are concerned, the most prominent examples are (but are in no way limited to):
- Social Media Posts
- Blogs and Articles
- Slideshow Presentations
- Email Mailouts and eNewsletters
The marketing side of content marketing, simply put, is the practice of using the above created content to perform a promotional function for you. If you share an informative piece of content on your website and on social channels, you are proving your skills and knowledge to your audience whilst holding their interest, increasing your chances of meaningful brand recognition. People are now equally likely to judge an organisation by their social media presence as well as their website, so it is important to prove your worth over social platforms as well as more established channels.
The main hub of all content campaigns should track back to social media. After creating a new piece of content, you simply must share it on social media (except for email campaigns, unless you also make a blog post out of them). Most of the main social platforms make it super easy to post a link to your content and make it appealing to your readers. Facebook and Twitter in particular take an image from the webpage you are sharing. This draws the eye better than simple text.
Each type of content I have listed above have their own benefits and drawbacks:
|Social Media Posts||Quick to create, read and share.||Limited in the amount of information you can realistically share in one post, best used in conjunction with other content.|
|Images||Easy to produce, and far more eye catching than simple text.||Also very easy to get wrong, and can give a very unprofessional look without the right software.|
|Blogs & Articles||Can offer a large amount of information and proof of your expertise in one hit.||May put readers off if they’re written poorly or take too long to get to the point.|
|Videos||Very eye catching and appealing to viewers who are pressed for time. Can creatively present data and dry topics.||Need the right tools to do a professional job, video production services can be expensive.|
|Podcasts||Fairly easy to produce, great for listeners to tune in whilst commuting or doing work around the house.||Need a good quality microphone and some level of skill to create a professionally sounding podcast, as well as a clear speaking voice.|
|Slideshows||Can go in depth with data and explain your points clearly.||Not quite as popular as other media, quite formal, so doesn’t suit all industries.|
|Infographics||Very popular way of presenting facts and figures without eliciting snores.||Can require a lot of research and need to be presented professionally to make the best impression.|
|Email Campaigns||Delivers your message straight to the user’s inbox.||People judge email as a very private space, so bulk mail may be seen as an intrusion. Also, spam filters may make reaching your readers troublesome.|
It might seem like a strange thing to suddenly start doing, especially if you are new to social media or any kind of online marketing, but there are a number of very tangible benefits:
- In sharing your content on social media, you’re providing content to your followers (who have already shown interest in you, by following you). This adds value to the relationship, and positions you in their minds as a knowledgeable source of information and advice.
- The concept of the “hard sell” is becoming more and more taboo, and the online advertising industry means that people usually have their defences up ready for even the most casual of web browsing sessions. Providing valuable content to the user and fostering trust in your expertise without relying on overly salesy tactics is bound to leave a more lasting impression.
- Rather than being sold to/at, comments sections and reply functions through social media allow your audience to interact with you by commenting or asking follow up questions. Opening up a conversation gives you more opportunity to connect with them and provide value on a personal level.
- In adding a relatable and human touch in your responses, and by using content to explain your trade to the uninitiated, you open a personal connection with the reader, and give them more understanding – a peek behind the curtain as it were.
- The magic of content marketing is that with a bit of imagination, it can work with practically any industry. Both B2B and B2C industries are totally fair game, and a bit of out of the box thinking can work wonders. For example, I am a copywriter. However instead of just writing about putting words on a page, I write about social media and content production as a whole, and the ways in which those words can add value. Have a good think about how you can open up your content and widen the scope of the value your content can provide.
- It is often cheaper than other kinds of marketing, and is potentially more effective because it reaches the places your customers directly frequent i.e., their own social media feeds or email inboxes. If you do want to bolster your content marketing efforts with paid advertising later down the line, you could make that post the centre of a paid campaign on your social platform or search engine of choice.
- When content is hosted on your own website, for example like the blog function on this website, it provides a potential, modest boost to your site in the search rankings. Search functions see that you are regularly adding new content, and that it drives new visitors to your site.
- More and more people are getting on the content marketing bandwagon, but there is bound to be a section of your competition who haven’t got the memo yet. Why not beat them to it?
- If you’ve created a piece of content a while ago that is still relevant and useful, there is nothing to stop you from sharing it again, effectively “recycling” it for maximum exposure. This kind of content without an expiry date is called “evergreen content.”
- A bank of expertly crafted content builds a positive brand experience in people who hadn’t heard of you previously.
Hopefully this has persuaded you that content marketing is something that you need to get involved with. To the uninitiated, it may sound very daunting, but I assure you: do it properly and you won’t regret it!
Update April 2016: I spoke about content marketing at Wolverhampton Science Park’s SpeedPLUS Networking event on the 6th April 2016, covering many of the points in this article – and a few extra! Check out my presentation below…